Further to our recent update, the Minister of State in the Department of Justice and Equality, Mr. David Stanton, has expressed an intention to bring forward the long awaited Gambling Control Bill (the GCB) by the end of 2017. The Government's Legislation Programme for Autumn 2017 notes that work is underway on the GCB. However, there has been no further information on when the draft of the GCB will be published, which is the next substantive step. Hence, there is no real prospect of the GCB getting on to the statute books this year.
The Department of Justice and Equality has recognised the significant body of complex work required to progress the GCB and has indicated that, in the interim, a number of issues in need of urgent updating will be dealt with sooner by way of a separate piece of legislation, the Courts and Civil Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2017 (the 2017 Bill).
The 2017 Bill
The general scheme of the 2017 Bill was published in August 2017 and includes 42 sections proposing measures to update Ireland's outdated gaming legislation. The following are some of the amendments that are being proposed in the Heads of the 2017 Bill, the detailed provisions for which have not yet been published:
It will become an explicit offence to promote, assist in promoting, or providing facilities for gaming, lotteries or raffles, unless a permit or licence has been issued.
A new concept of a "raffle" is to be introduced. A raffle is not strictly defined in the Heads of the 2017 Bill but it is stated to include "all competitions where prizes of any or all of money, goods or services are distributed according to a draw that takes place after all participants have entered". There are three categories of raffle provided for in the Heads of the 2017 Bill as follows:
- Raffles with prizes worth up to €1,000 will be carried out without a permit subject to certain conditions. While such a raffle does not need a permit it seems that an application of some sort may still be needed as the draft Bill states that where the raffle is promoted for a philanthropic purpose, this must be stated in writing "in the application". It is not clear to whom the application will be directed. There is provision also for raffle tickets to be sold electronically without a permit.
- Raffles with prizes worth up to €5,000 will be carried out under a permit from the local police superintendent, subject to certain conditions. Such tickets will also be sold electronically.
- Raffles for prizes worth up to €30,000 will be carried out under a licence from the local District Court, subject to certain conditions. Though it is not clear from the Heads of the 2017 Bill, it appears that the limit of €30,000 is for a one off raffle rather than, for a series of raffles. Again, tickets for the licensed raffle may be sold electronically.
It is still possible to apply to the local police superintendent for a permit for a lottery for prizes of up to €5,000, and to the District Court for a licence for lotteries with prizes of up to €30,000. However, the circumstances in which lottery permits will be obtainable will be limited to "private lotteries", e.g. lotteries held at sports meetings, festivals, concerts and at licensed amusement halls and funfairs. Tickets for lotteries to be carried out under a permit or pursuant to a licence from the District Court can in future be made available for sale electronically.
The restriction on allowing gaming to take place on a licensed premises is removed and gaming is to be permitted in very limited circumstances and, subject to certain conditions, including that a police permit must be obtained.
Maximum Stake/ Prize Limit
The maximum stake and prize limits which operators can provide at licensed amusement halls and funfairs is to be increased to an individual stake of up to €10 and prize of up to €750.
A uniform minimum age limit for gambling is to be set at 18 years of age.
This draft legislation is just an early measure being introduced ahead of more comprehensive laws aimed at gambling control and increased regulation. However, it remains to be seen as to whether or not the proposed changes will bring increased clarity as to when and how gaming/lotteries/raffles may take place, or whether the requirement to pursue such applications at a local level, will lead to a greater inconsistency in the application of the legislation.